An otherwise unremarkable career advice column makes a great point about a benefit of latticing: When you take lateral turns in related departments, you gain insights into how your organization works. You not only make good connections, but you also see how the moving parts mesh.
I absorbed this lesson when I spent seven years writing for a magazine about debt collection. Not too glamorous, but I did learn a lot: about human nature, about how people soldier on in an unpopular career, and about how much of the organization’s mission breaks down when people don’t pay their bills.
Sales don’t count unless customers pay.
Marketing doesn’t mean much unless it attracts customers who are willing to buy what you are selling.
Operations is falling down on the job when it delivers goods and services that are so damaged that customers can’t use them or won’t pay for them.
And if customer service isn’t serving, frustrated customers resort to refusing to pay their bill. Their calls might go to voice mail. Their emails might disappear into the ether. But if they don’t pay their bill, they get attention.
Of course, at that point, the collection staff is the only thing that stands between the complete loss of the customer (and all future sales from that customer, plus the defection of that customer to a competitor, which translates to lost market share). It all rolls downhill and lands in their laps.
They clean up the messes left by the rest of the company.
Some smart organizations requires up-and-comers to rotate through many departments, observing how the gears fit together. If they’re really smart, they have them spend a few days dealing with that most tiresome of all creatures, the public, by working the phones in the customer service center or in the collection department.
Adopt the same attitude for your lateral move. You’re seeing the same organization from a different perch. How are the culture, terms, and approach different from your prior position? What you see informs the job you have today — and the job you’ll land tomorrow.